How JIBRI Founder Jasmine Elder Created A Brand That Fills A Gap In The Plus Size Market
Although JIBRI designer Jasmine Elder wasn't exactly studying the lack of trendy, upmarket plus size goods on the market when starting her brand in 2009, she did know that she wasn't seeing the kind of clothing she wanted to wear.
"I always made my own pieces, but developed an interest in creating a line when I needed to actually shop and didn't see what I wanted," she says. "I'm actually a real fashion lover. I love it outside of my size. I love it outside of any budget. I love it in any arena. I watch movies into the credits to see who the costume designers were. Then I look them up and track the designers of the shoes, the jewelry, the headpieces, etc. I've done that since I was a kid."
A love of clothing combined with the challenges of finding unique plus size styles is what helped Elder create what many considered to be a one-of-a-kind line in the plus size fashion market. The common thread of Elder's garments seems to be their ability to evoke unforgettable effortlessness. Nothing appears particularly difficult or uncomfortable to wear, yet every single piece seems high-end: Impeccably constructed with fancy, bold, but still practical babes in mind.
JIBRI offers that extravagance in a package that still feels rule-breaking. Plenty of Elder's silhouettes, cuts, patterns, and colors rest in direct opposition to the pseudo sartorial guidelines women above a certain size are meant to follow. She plays with sheer fabrications, metallic prints, oversized designs that take up space, enormous trumpet sleeves, and slouchy everything.
"Creating my silhouettes, experimenting with prints, color, and texture... that's a part of how I view fashion," she tells Bustle. "I never saw [my clothes] as broken rules or taboo fashion for plus sized women. It's just fun. No rules were ever intentionally broken because I don't accept that there are any in fashion."
Despite the fact that JIBRI is a higher-end brand, it's still very much an indie brand. Elder still designs all of JIBRI's pieces and is "100 percent hands on in the creation process." In addition, she says she has "a team of awesome women" who work alongside her.
Helping other curvy and plus size women "feel great" is at the heart of Elder's creations. She knows "what it's like to be uncomfortable in a look. It can ruin your day," she says. "But I also know how it feels to adore your look. It takes all the pressure off [and] I love being able to share that feeling with women."
Elder's styles have been worn by celebrities like Tamela Mann, Retta, Chrisette Michele, Amber Riley, Brittany Howard, Tess Holiday, Tasha Cobbs, and Gabourey Sidibe, among others — and she has a steady roster of regular customers, too.
"The first time I saw a woman wearing JIBRI in the street, I thought surely this was a peak," Elder says. "Then I saw JIBRI in magazine or on a TV show. Surely that was a peak. Then I received emails from clients with stories of triumph on days [when] they just happened to be wearing JIBRI... so surely, that was a peak. Then I had a bride break down into tears because she never dreamt she'd have a gown she felt so beautiful wearing."
Although Elder herself is still waiting "to see more opportunities for the real designers of plus" in mainstream fashion, there's no doubting that she and her brand have an important role to play in broadening the landscape of plus retail. If the market is ever to become more inclusive and daring as a whole, it'll undoubtedly be the innovative designers like herself who serve as a catalyst for change.
As for now, Elder will continue to do her own thing: Breaking rules without even trying and making a whole lot of women's days (and closets) brighter because of it.